A ruling of the Rajasthan High Court has opened the doors for the state's cricketers to play in the BCCI's domestic competitions this year. The court passed an interim order appointing selection committees that will pick teams to represent the state in various BCCI domestic tournaments in the 2014-15 season. The teams will play represent Rajasthan, but not under the usual banner of the Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA).
The order was passed by Justice MN Bhandari, who was hearing a writ petition filed originally on September 16 on behalf Nikhil Doru and others, and signed by 75 Rajasthan players.
"This order has been passed with the consent to make temporary arrangement to keep representation of the state of Rajasthan in various tournaments to be organised by the BCCI," the court stated in its five-page order. The arrangement will come to an end at the completion of the 2014-15 season or when the dispute between the BCCI and the RCA is settled, whichever comes first.
The BCCI had suspended the RCA in May after the latter elected Lalit Modi, an expelled administrator, as its president. The BCCI then omitted RCA from the domestic programme for the forthcoming season, which starts from next week. That had resulted in much angst among the players, and eventually the filing of the writ petition. The court had subsequently issued notices to the BCCI and the RCA, seeking responses from both on the writ petition, which had argued that the players were suffering only for one reason: "the grudge between the BCCI and RCA."
On Tuesday Bhandari asked both BCCI and RCA counsels to put forth a joint proposal to facilitate Rajasthan teams to participate in various domestic tournaments. Both parties were asked to nominate a set of names each, who would effectively act as selectors. Today the court finalised the three groups - one for the men's team, one for the juniors and another for women's cricket - the senior selection panel is comprised of five members while the other two have a set of three selectors. Each panel has a BCCI-nominated selector, who will "associate" with the other team members in picking teams.
According to the court order the RCA had "proposed" five names which the "BCCI had no objection" with. But Bhandari decided to replace Ratan Singh with Sanjay Vyas due to the latter's vast experience. "For senior selection committee, name of five members have been proposed by the RCA, to which, the BCCI has no objection but after considering those names, I find requirement of one substitution, which would be of Mr Ratan Singh with that of Mr Sanjay Vyas, who remained captain of Ranji team for quite long time," the court order said. The court also pruned the original list of five and six selectors nominated by the RCA for the junior and women's panels to three. The court pointed out that the BCCI would compensate the selectors during their tenure.
The court also asked Taposh Chatterjee, who is currently a member of BCCI's ground and pitches committee, to coordinate and oversee the appointment/requirements of the teams' support staff, and asked the BCCI to approve the same. It was also made clear that the support staff would work "under the directions of the court" and their payments would be stood by the BCCI. Chatterjee is also the head groundsman at Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Rajasthan's home ground.
For the venue of Rajasthan's home matches, the court revealed that RCA had "offered" to provide Sawai Mansingh Stadium "for tournaments as and when required by selectors or BCCI for organising tournaments". The court also clarified that the BCCI would take care of paying the charges for the stadium and conducting the matches.
The writ petition was originally filed by a Jaipur-based advocate Sachin Mehta and argued by senior counsel Sudhir Gupta, on behalf of Doru, a former Rajasthan wicketkeeper, who last played for the state in 2009. Even if Mehta claimed that he had independently approached the court on behalf of the players, though, indirectly he was representing the RCA - it is understood that the RCA officials told the players they would be appealing to the court on behalf of the players.
For its part, the BCCI had originally appointed an ad-hoc subcommittee to oversee the disputed states of Rajasthan, Bihar and Uttarakhand. But the subcommittee's attempts at working a solution out with the RCA and the Rajasthan government - the RCA is governed by the Rajasthan Sports Act - failed, and so the deadlock continued.
Now, the BCCI has readily accepted the court order, secretary Sanjay Patel said. "The BCCI has all along maintained that we do not want the players to suffer. We are delighted that that the players' interests have been taken care of," he told ESPNcricinfo.
Despite its "acceptance", the BCCI wanted to make sure it did not cede ground to the RCA in any way and hence sent one of its senior-most counsel, PR Raman, to argue the case on Tuesday. Following the court's ruling, the BCCI also confirmed in a statement that it did not in any way change the status of the RCA. "The suspension of the membership of the RCA continues and would not stand in the way of the players' participation in BCCI tournaments," the release said.
Mehmod Abdi, the deputy president at RCA, it was "win, win situation for all, particularly the RCA and the Rajasthan cricketers". Abdi, a legal counsel himself, said the court intervention was "humane and compassionate", one which "protected" the interest of the players.
"In fact, cricketers were being unnecessarily punished. Under the bylaws, at best the member state can be suspended, not the players," Abdi said in a statement. "Notwithstanding the disputes between RCA and BCCI, which are being addressed at different forums, this could be the best solution that could happen where under order of the court both BCCI and RCA have come under one roof to find a way out of the impasse other than the stated position of BCCI."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo